Tiffany Joh can trace her passion for golf, among all the other important things in her life, back to those early days where she played round after round by herself at Colina Park Golf Course.
Today, Joh, who graduated from Rancho Bernardo High, has achieved a milestone as a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
“Who would think that I would earn as much money as I have on tour?’’ the 31-year-old Joh asked. “Dad used to drop me off at Colina Park so he didn’t have to pay for a babysitter during summer vacation.’’
In eight seasons – the season runs from mid-January until around Thanksgiving – on tour, Joh has surpassed $1 million in earnings.
The 5-foot-6 Joh, who began playing golf at age 12, had a pretty good run late this summer.
She was 56th in the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, earning $5,314.
In the Marathon Classic, the 2005 graduate of Rancho Bernardo High, finished 44th to earn $6,692.
Her shining moment this year came despite unpredictable weather seen in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open in late June.
Joh, who turned professional in 2009 and qualified for the LPGA Tour in 2011, opened with a 9-under-par 62 to lead the tournament and followed it up with a 4-under 67 for a 13-under 129 to retain the lead at the halfway point.
“I didn’t hit the ball too well that first day,’’ said Joh, whose first pro tournament was the Kia Classic at the former La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad where she missed the cut. “Most of the holes that day looked as big as trash cans.
“I made back-to-back 50-footers on 13th and 14th holes. When I looked at the leaderboard and saw all the names of people who could win the tournament, I kept hearing the theme song from ‘Jaws.’’’
Then the weather changed, the wind and rain kicked up and so did the scores.
And Joh’s game suffered. Her third-round score of 9-over 80 cost her the top spot.
“I didn’t play that badly, but the weather got me,’’ she said. “I felt like I was hitting a moving target with another moving target. I could have shot an 85 or a 90, so my 80 wasn’t too bad.
“I prepped for that tournament in the Hampton’s, hitting a bucket of balls in someone’s backyard, the same thing I did back at Colina.’’
And the final-day 1-under 70 left her at 5-under 279 in eighth place to earn $33,459.
Joh earned $14,571 the next week in the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
That pushed her career earnings to $1,159,147.
She missed the cut after two rounds in the Indy Women in Tech Championship and the CP Women’s Open in August.
In pro golf, missing the cut at the halfway mark earns you no money.
Joh balances her time on the golf course playing about 30 tournaments a year with her guitar and a friendly surfing spot.
Joh took up the guitar back in her days at Bernardo Heights Middle School, right next to the Rancho Bernardo campus.
“I’m an instant karaoke party with my guitar,’’ she said, laughing.
For real relaxation, Joh gets away from the course.
Six years ago she took up surfing and will borrow anyone’s surfboard during a break from playing a round instead of spending hours on the practice green working out the kinks in her game.
Even if there are no waves around, she’ll paddle out and sit on the board, becoming one with the water.
One of her favorite spots is Saladita in Mexico.
“It would kill me to be a full-time golfer 24 hours every day,’’ the UCLA graduate said. “There are not a lot of surfers on tour. The rest of the golfers learned a long time ago that I’m a little different. “I use surfing and guitaring as therapy.’’
She’s never seen any sharks in the water, but has encountered lots of stingrays, turtles and dolphins.
“I’ve got a lot of stamps in my passport thanks to golf,’’ Joh added. “This hasn’t been a bad gig for me.’’
A million-dollar gig.